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Elephants Slaughtered 
North American Wildlands Project

The Importance of Predators


A massacre of the world's elephants is going on right now. One hundred thousand African elephants were been killed by poachers between 2010-2012 and the total population of elephants in Africa has declined 64% in a decade.

This slaughter is occurring because elephants are killed for their tusks. Ivory has long been a status symbol in Asia and increased prosperity in China and southeast Asia has allowed a newly created middle class to purchase ivory on the black market. Furthermore, many traditional societies believe that ivory has medicinal powers (which it does not) and it is often ground up to produce expensive medicines.

The continuing demand for ivory produces an army of poachers who will fill this demand.These poachers are often allied with terrorist groups who use the proceeds from the illegal ivory trade to finance their activities. Because of this poacher/terrorist connection, the poachers are often armed with sophisticated weaponry including machine guns.

In an effort to protect elephants, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ("CITES"¯) in 1989 banned the sale of all ivory except "old estate ivory"¯. However, it left enforcement to the individual countries and this has been the loophole. Some countries did not sign the treaty and among those who did many do not enforce it at all.

Concerted global action is required if we are to save the elephants. As the secretary-general of CITES accurately states, "In terms of concrete actions, we need to move to focus on the front-line and tackle all links in the illegal ivory trade chain -- improve local livelihoods (for those living with elephants), strengthen enforcement and governance and reduce demand for illegal ivory."


1. Support and expand international, federal and state laws that regulate and prohibit the ivory trade.

2. Tell your legislators of your desire to protect elephants as this will affect their policies on the importation of ivory. The same legislators who take steps to protect wildlife in the U.S. are generally interested in protecting wildlife elsewhere. Write or email your state and federal representatives and ask what their positions are on wildlife protection in general and elephants in particular. When I contact my representatives, I always specifically state that I would like a call or letter back.

3. Insist that the rules promulgated by CITES in 1989 be enforced. China is the worst offender in terms of enforcement so please write the Chinese embassy
to express your opinions. Contact information for the Chinese embassy is as follows:

3505 International Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

Email: chinaembpress_us@mfa.gov.cn

4. Do not purchase ivory yourselves. Even "old estate ivory"¯ (defined as ivory that was more than 100 years old at the time of import) reinforces the idea that ivory is desirable. Frequently the ivory you buy today is poached, despite the often forged documentation that accompanies it.

5. Do not travel to countries in Africa that do not protect elephants. Many African countries are not putting the necessary resources into protecting elephants and other wildlife. Write to their embassies and express your feelings on this issue and the reasons why you are traveling (or not traveling) to their country. Some nations, such as Kenya, are making an honest effort to protect elephants and recently have been successful by employing drones to spot poachers.

For further information, please consult the following websites:

Pachyderm Power

The Dodo

National Geographic

CBS News

Bloody Ivory



Anybody who loves animals will be interested in this visionary project that will protect North America's wildlife. It is called the WILDLANDS PROJECT and it is about the creation of safe corridors for animals throughout the continent. There are four proposed corridors (wildways¯) three of them running North-South and one going East-West.

What is envisioned is an Eastern Wildway passing through the Appalachians, a mid-continental corridor running through the Rocky Mountains, an Arctic-Boreal corridor running through much of Alaska and Canada and a Pacific Wildway traversing the Sierra Nevada and Cascades.

Here is a map showing the corridors that we are creating:

            Credit: Wildlands Network

It is not accidental that the three North-South corridors run along the main mountain ranges in North America. This is where the majority of large wild animals still live and where the human population is thinnest. It is along these corridors that we will protect the animals by giving them the ability to travel in safety.

The current patchwork of unconnected parks does not allow the animals to seasonally migrate to find mates and preserve genetic diversity. Nor does it allow them to respond to the challenge of climate change which is necessitating mass migrations to new habitat and adding urgency to this essential project.

What we presently have are scattered parks and wilderness areas but they are not connected or, if they are, the connections are too narrow to serve as passage ways. Because of this, many hazards confront the animals as they travel between places where they can find sanctuary. There are freeways and busy highways as well as fences and areas cleared for logging or development. There are impassable walls at the Mexican border. How are the animals to navigate all these dangers?

Wildways would provide safe passageway by providing continuous protected wildlands. These will be made up of national parks, state parks, wilderness areas, land trusts, and conservation easements from private landowners who care about the environment.

The greatest innovation of this project is the realization that the animals need a continuous, connected safe passage. Protected areas have to connect or they can't serve as corridors. We can also assist the animals by creating spaced wildlife overpasses or underpasses across the major highways. Such overpasses already exist in Canada and Europe and they are beautiful! The following links will show you such overpasses:



What are the practical implications of this for those of us
who love animals and want to protect wildlife?

First, we need to make our legislators aware of the Wildlands Project so they will know that there is an overall plan, a vision.

Second, we need to convince legislators to choose sites for wilderness areas and parks within the proposed corridors. For political reasons there is a tendency to create parks near large metropolitan areas because that is where the voters live, but we must convince legislators to also acquire land in the sparsely populated mountain areas. This is challenging in a time of financial stress.

Third, we will have to redefine "multi-use"¯. This is a contentious subject in the management of state and national parks. We will need to define "multi-use"¯ along the corridors in a way that is animal friendly. Park signs often say "land of many uses"¯ but what does that mean? Is hunting allowed in the park? Snowmobiling? Fishing? All Terrain vehicles? Mining? Logging?

Fourth, we can speak to others about this project and suggest it to students and teachers as an important subject for school presentations.

In all of the years that I have done environmental work I have never been so excited about a project because this is a large bore answer to a large scale problem. The Wildlands Project is not a timid answer. It is multi-generational and it is worth doing, for us, for the generations to follow and most of all for the animals themselves. They don't want much - just the ability to live in peace.

Here is a link that will give you more information on the Wildways and the Wildlands Network that is working to create them:




We have inherited an earth in danger and that danger is particularly apparent in the war on predators that we have waged for centuries. Predators are essential to any ecosystem because they keep the prey species in balance with what the ecosystem can support.

Predators and prey will always come to a balance because if there are too many predators (e.g. wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bears) the prey species will decline in numbers. The predators will then not have sufficient food and they will decline until there is sufficient balance for the prey species to recover. Then the cycle will repeat. 

People have interrupted this cycle in numerous ways. Pollution, fences, logging, mining and loss of habitat, all symptomatic of human overpopulation, have disrupted this natural cycle. There has been a wholesale destruction of essential prey species, such as prairie dogs, by builders and developers. Organizations such as Prairie Dog Coalition, a project of the Humane Society of the United States, work to preserve these keystone species and thus the entire ecosystems which depend on them.

One factor in the decline of predators has been the use of lead ammunition.  Lead is toxic to living ecosystems.  Because of its toxicity, lead has been removed from paint and gasoline, and yet it is still allowed as ammunition in most states. Predators will die or suffer extremely negative long term effects from the ingestion of just one lead shotgun pellet. Scavengers who then eat the carcasses will suffer the same effects and so it gets passed along the food chain. 

Probably most damaging has been the wanton destruction of predators by bounties placed upon the skins of predators such as coyotes and wolves. Governmental agencies and bounty hunters were rewarded for killing as many predators as possible. Australia currently offers a bounty on foxes. Sadly, hunting and ranching organizations have traditionally applauded this approach. 

There is a new awareness of the importance of predators to any wild ecosystem. When the wolves were returned to Yellowstone in 1995, they preyed on the deer which meant that the deer populations were brought more into balance with the ecosystem. Wolves take the old and  weakest, who cannot escape, while hunters shoot the largest and most healthy so they can hang their horns on a wall. The effect of this is that the healthiest animals in the herd do not get the chance to procreate. Thus the wolves keep the species healthier in the long run while the hunters keep it weaker.

There is a fascinating video on this subject which shows how the return of the wolves to Yellowstone reinvigorated the entire ecosystem. Wolves slimmed down the deer herds, which in turn allowed the grasses, which the deer had been eating vociferously, to return to the riverbed. 

" I'd rather go naked than wear fur"

This, in turn, lead to more stable foundations for the river’s banks which allowed the fish and beavers to return. This lead to its repopulation by frogs, salamanders and other river-dwelling species which in turn provide food for the predators.

Nature will return to a healthy balance if we just keep out of its way.  It may take decades, depending on the amount of damage we have caused, but it will occur


Prairie Dogs: www.prairiedogcoalition.org/

Toxic Effects of Lead Ammunition: Lead Ammunition: Toxic to Wildlife and the Environment (HSUS)


Cultural Clash Between Hunters and Conservationists: http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2014/03/05/whither-the-hunterconservationist/

How Wolves Change Rivers (YouTube video):



Visitors may write to Larry Weiss & Janet Hastings here:  honor.animals1@gmail.com